Cranberry Herb Bread Stuffing is made with classic flavors like onion, celery, sage and thyme plus apple and cranberry for a blend of sweet and savory. A crusty loaf of fresh bread makes this the perfect stuffing for your Thanksgiving table!
The stuffing, or let's call it dressing since people rarely stuff a turkey anymore, is one of my favorite side dishes on the Thanksgiving table! This Cranberry Herb Bread Stuffing marries savory onion, celery, fresh sage and thyme with lots of sweet apple and pops of bright dried cranberries.
A beautiful loaf of crusty bread and fresh ingredients give this stuffing its classic Thanksgiving day flavor!
- Crusty Bread - This fresh bread stuffing gives you a nice texture, different than the store-bought dried stuffing cubes, although you can substitute those here if you want to! Really any rustic loaf of bread will do, anything labeled garlic, French, Italian, boule, sourdough, brioche, whatever looks the best. The bread can be white or wheat in color.
- Butter - It may seem like more butter than you need to saute the veggies, but don't skimp on it. That butter will coat the bread and help it bake up golden and delicious! Dot more over the top to coat your bread while it bakes.
- Onion and Celery - These are the classic aromatic vegetables and the base layer of flavor for the stuffing. Keep cooking them until they are starting to brown and caramelize, this adds big flavor!
- Apples - The apple gives this stuffing its unique sweet and savory flavor. They do not need to be peeled, and any apple variety will work.
- Garlic - The garlic is added raw to the mixture and will release its aroma and flavor as the stuffing bakes. Use fresh if you can, or substitute 1 teaspoon of dried garlic powder.
- Eggs - The eggs serve as a binder for the stuffing, and also give it its soft interior to contrast the crispy top.
- Chicken Stock - Stock really holds the dish together. You can use store-bought or Homemade Chicken Stock, or turkey or vegetable stock for a vegetarian stuffing.
- Dried Cranberries - I'd call them the star ingredient! Sweet chewy baked cranberries take this stuffing over the top! Be sure to add some into the mix and sprinkle more on top before baking.
- Fresh Herbs - Definitely use a combination of fresh herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme, and parsley, it is Thanksgiving after all! You can often buy a combination package of herbs labeled a soup mix. Add them in before baking and garnish generously with more over the top!
See recipe card for full ingredient list and quantities.
Substitutions & Variations
Feel free to use this stuffing recipe as a starting point and make it your own!
- Adding Cheese - It might just be my Wisconsin roots, but I think a little shredded Parmesan, white cheddar, gouda or gruyere would be delicious to top the stuffing!
- Sausage - You can make this a sausage bread stuffing by first browning ½ to 1 pound of bulk ground sausage on one side of the skillet while you cook the onion and celery on the other. You can remove it to a plate and drain the fat, or you can cut back on the butter and use some of that fat to saute the veggies.
- Nuts - A lot of stuffing recipes have nuts, and you can certainly include sliced almonds, pecans or walnuts in this recipe.
- Dried Bread Cubes - This recipe will certainly be fine if you prefer to buy the dried bread cubes over a fresh loaf. Just eyeball the amount to fit in your pan, and then start the egg mixture with only 1 cup of stock. Mix everything together and then decide if you need more stock. The cubes should be saturated, but not sitting in a pool of liquid.
To make this basic stuffing, you will dry the bread, then saute the veggies, mix it all together with eggs and chicken stock, and bake until golden!
Step 1 - Cut the bread into cubes and add to the baking dish. Eyeball the amount, you may not need the whole loaf. Toss with olive oil and bake at 375°F for about 40 minutes to dry out the bread. Toss it a few times during baking.
Step 2 - Meanwhile, chop the onion, celery, apple and garlic.
Step 3 - Melt butter in a skillet and saute the onion and celery, about 5 minutes.
Step 4 - Add the apple and continue to saute about 15 more minutes until the mixture begins to caramelize.
Step 5 - In a large bowl, whisk together the chicken stock, eggs, garlic, and half the cranberries and herbs.
Step 5 - Add the dried bread and the sauteed veggies to the egg mixture and toss well to fully combine. You want the bread soaked but not sitting in a pool of liquid. Keep mixing so it can fully absorb!
Step 6 - Butter the baking dish after you have dried the bread. Then add the mixture and top with the remaining herbs, cranberries, and dot with butter.
Step 7 - Cover with a lid or foil and bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 20 to 30 minutes. Garnish with lots of fresh herbs.
- Make Ahead Instructions - You can prepare the stuffing unbaked a day in advance, wrap it well and refrigerate to bake the next day. Before baking, take a look at the bread and stir in a bit more stock if it looks at all dry.
- Transporting Instructions - If bringing stuffing to the host's house, you probably shouldn't assume you can bake it the full hour in their oven as it will likely be full of other dishes. You should at least bake it the 30 minutes covered with foil, or bake it the full amount. Transport in an insulated bag, or even covered with foil and wrapped in a beach towel to keep warm in their oven.
- How can you tell when it's done? - You'll want to check the stuffing a bit like checking a French toast casserole. Pull off a cube or two of bread in the middle and see if the egg looks cooked through.
- Using the Right Dish - I like to cube the bread and put it in the baking dish to check the amount before drying it in the oven. I used a 9x13 casserole dish, a lasagna pan as I call it. You can double the recipe in two pans, or cut it in half and make in a smaller dish if serving less people.
- Stock Amount - You can always add more stock but it's harder to take it out! Start with the 2 cups and really toss and mix well so the bread can soak up the stock. Use your hands if that's easier! You want the bread fully saturated but not sitting in a pool of liquid.
What to Serve With
Cranberry stuffing is the perfect anchor to your Thanksgiving turkey dinner! We always serve it with Rosemary Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Sweet Potato Casserole, and Cranberry Muffins, a side dish not a dessert!
Roasted Sweet Potato Slices, Butternut Squash Casserole, or Roasted Butternut Squash with Cranberries and Pecans are a nice addition for "something orange."
Add a green vegetable like Broccoli Au Gratin or Roasted Carrots and Brussel Sprouts and a holiday salad like this Pear Blue Cheese Salad with Glazed Honey Walnuts or this Butternut Squash Fall Harvest Salad.
It's best to prep the stuffing the day before, but wait to bake it until the day of. If you do bake it the day before, store it covered in the fridge. To reheat, cover it with foil and warm in a 375° oven for about 30 minutes or until warmed through. If the stuffing seams dry, pour a little extra chicken stock over it before baking.
Many types of crusty bread will work great for stuffing including a French or Italian loaf, roasted garlic, boule, ciabatta, challah, brioche, Ancient grains, sourdough, or hearty sandwich bread. The bread can be white or wheat in color. The stuffing will take on the flavor and texture of the bread.
Fat and liquid will keep your stuffing moist. Sauteing the onion and celery in plenty of butter will later coat the bread keeping your stuffing moist. Then dot the top of the stuffing with a bit more butter before baking. Using the right amount of chicken stock is also important. The exact amount can depend on the type of bread you use. Add enough stock so the bread is saturated, but not sitting in liquid.
More Thanksgiving Recipes!
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Cranberry Herb Bread Stuffing
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- 1 loaf rustic bread
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 6 Tablespoons butter divided, plus more to butter the dish
- 1 onion about 1½ cups chopped
- 3 stalks celery about 1½ cups chopped
- 2 apples about 2 cups chopped
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 10 grinds fresh black pepper
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups chicken stock
- ¾ cup dried cranberries divided
- 3 Tablespoons fresh herbs rosemary, sage, thyme, parsley
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut the bread into cubes and toss it with olive oil in a 9x13 casserole dish. The amount should fill the casserole dish you plan to bake the stuffing. You may not use all your loaf of bread. Bake 40 minutes to dry out the bread, giving it a toss a few times during baking.
- Meanwhile, preheat a large skillet over medium heat and add 4 Tablespoons butter. Saute the onion and celery about 5 minutes. Then add apple, salt and pepper and saute 15 more minutes, until soft and beginning to caramelize. Stir often.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, stock, garlic, half the cranberries and half the herbs. Add the onion mixture and toasted bread, and mix very well.
- Add the mixture back to the casserole dish. Top with the remaining cranberries and scatter 2 Tablespoons chopped butter over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining herbs.
- Cover with a lid or tightly with foil, and bake at 375°F for 30 minutes. Then remove cover and bake 20 to 30 minutes more until cooked through, golden and crusty on top.
- You may need to add more stock when mixing everything together, you want the bread moist but not sitting in a pool of liquid. Keep mixing to get it all incorporated. 2 cups was just right for me, but you may need to add more depending on the type of bread.
- Use any type of crusty artisan bread such as a French or Italian loaf, boule, ciabatta, challah, brioche, Ancient grains, sourdough, or hearty sandwich bread. It can be white or wheat in color.
- If you feel the top is burning and the bottom isn't done, just put the cover back on. Remove the color to crisp the top.
- How can I tell when it's done? - Pull up a few bread cubes in the middle of the pan and pull out a bit with a fork. If you still see liquid or the egg seems runny, give it another 5 minutes and check again.
- Substitute turkey stock or vegetable stock for vegetarian stuffing.
- Garnish with more fresh herbs.